The Folklore of Healers and Witches BellaVita Botanics

The Folklore of Healers and Witches

Growing up, many of us probably thought all witches were like the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz – old, ugly, hook-nosed women wearing pointy hats and tending to cauldrons. However, most women known to be witches throughout history actually look like completely normal women who have origins far less sinister than the depictions seen in books and movies.

In fact, those once thought to be witches were actually the healers and curers of societies. You could even say that they’re the ones who’ve been cursed all these years. Cursed with a bad reputation.

That’s why this Halloween, we wanted to honor their past by doing a quick dive into the history of witches, healers, and the holiday of Halloween itself.

From Person of Great Healing to Persona Non Grata

The history of witches dates back to biblical times. A time where witches were known by another name – wise women. Wise women were the midwives and healers of their community. They were foragers and valued members of the community who created medicinal remedies from things they could find in their local landscape such as: plants, animal parts, water, and minerals like salt. Wise women played a pivotal role in village medicine for many years. That is, until the murky tides began to turn against them. It’s unclear exactly when the benign image of the witch turned bitter.

All That’s Interesting states how some scholars argue the answer is linked to events before Christ. They go on, stating how “others believe that when the Hebrews settled in Canaan 1300 years before the common era, their male-centric — and monotheistic — view of creation came along for the ride. Obeying laws of the Bible, Hebrews believed witchcraft to be dangerous, and prohibited it as a pagan practice.”

Nonetheless, centuries later, the wiccaphobia spread to Europe in the 1300s along with an unexplainable illness (now known as the Black Beath) which decimated over 60% of Europe’s population. Those practicing herbalism were among the unfortunate scapegoats.

The Thinning of the Veil

Today, in 21st century America, the end of October welcomes Halloween. Commonly known to be a time when the veil between the physical and spiritual worlds is at its thinnest and when we can connect more easily with our ancestors and other spirits.

While you might imagine that Halloween is the time of year the witch shines, many witches actually celebrate a different holiday on October 31. Most witches are actually known to celebrate a pagan holiday known as Samhain.

What is Samhain?
Originating back to The Celts of what is now known as Ireland, Samhain, pronounced "sow-en", is a seasonal marker holiday for many witches – their new years eve – and it is when the veil is thinnest between realms.

It is the holiday Halloween has been adapted from and where a number of modern Halloween traditions originate. Traditions such as dressing up in costume, trick-or-treating, and gathering with loved ones to share stories of our ancestors are all ways to welcome in the new year and ensure a good harvest during Samhain.

Celebrating Halloween, Healers and Herbalism

At BellaVita, we deeply appreciate the art of herbalism, the work of healers, and the history of Halloween. Today you’ll find us celebrating this holiday with our loved ones – trick-or-treating, feasting on seasonal foods, making use of herbs through salves and skincare, and of course, lighting a candle (...or many candles) in honor of our ancestors.

How will you be spending your holiday? Let us know in the comments!

Happy Halloween, Bellas!

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